Biden Signs $740B Defense Policy Bill to Repair Sexual Assault Prosecutions, Reconsider Afghan War

National Defense Authorization Act increases military spending by $25 billion over White House request. The bill includes a 2.7 percent pay increase f

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden signed a $740 billion bill authorizing defense funding for fiscal 2022 on Monday.

The National Defense Authorization Act increases military spending by $25 billion over the White House request. Additionally, the bill includes a 2.7 percent pay increase for troops, changes to how the military prosecutes certain sexual misconduct offenses, and the establishment of an independent commission to conduct a two-decade review of the Afghan war.

Joe Biden Sad Face


Congress and the president have approved the comprehensive defense policy bill for the 61st consecutive year. Additionally, the legislation includes $28 billion to fund the Energy Department's nuclear weapons programs.


Highlights

  • The legislation also includes another $28 billion to fund Energy Department nuclear weapons programs.
  • And the bill includes a 2.7% pay raise for troops, changes to how the military prosecutes some sexual misconduct crimes and an independent commission to review the two-decade war in Afghanistan.
  • The Afghanistan commission created by the NDAA will study the entire scope of the war, from its beginning in 2001 to the final withdrawal in August.


"There is much to be proud of in this bill," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said in a statement, citing the pay increase, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and climate provisions. "Ultimately, this year's NDAA emphasizes the factors that contribute to our country's strength: our economy, diversity, innovation, allies and partners, democratic values, and our troops."


The Senate passed the NDAA on Dec. 15, following months of debate and doubts about its completion.


The increased top line funds the acquisition of 12 additional F/A-18 Super Hornets, five additional F-15EX jets to bring the total to 17, and five additional ships in addition to the eight requested, including two attack submarines and two destroyers.


The bill prohibits the Air Force from retiring any of its A-10 Warthogs, a move the service has long desired, but allows for the retirement of other aircraft.


Senator Jack Reed, D-R.I., Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised the bill for its investment in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics, and quantum computing, as well as its emphasis on strategic competition with China.


Reed also noted that the bill includes $13 billion for submarine research, development, and production, which he said would benefit Rhode Island workers, suppliers, and businesses.


And Reed lauded the bill's provision increasing parental leave for all service members to 12 weeks following the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child, as well as the addition of a new two-week bereavement leave benefit for service members and federal civilians.


The Afghanistan commission established by the NDAA will examine the war from its inception in 2001 to its conclusion in August. It will also make public an unclassified report on lessons learned and recommendations to "ensure those mistakes are never repeated," commission sponsor Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, stated earlier this month following the Senate's passage of the NDAA.


Protect Our Defenders, a group that advocates for military sexual assault survivors and changes in how the service prosecutes such crimes, released a statement calling the bill "the most transformative military justice reform in our nation's history" and "a critical first step toward resolving the sexual assault crisis that has plagued the military for decades."


The final bill requires the Pentagon to establish an independent prosecutor's office for each service, staffed by specially trained officials — not military commanders lacking legal expertise — to prosecute certain serious crimes, including rape, sexual assault, murder, manslaughter, and kidnapping.


However, as part of the bill's compromise, the military justice reforms were weakened. The final version did not go as far as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, who argued for removing all serious crimes from the traditional military chain of command. Gillibrand, who has long been an outspoken advocate for improving the military's prosecution and treatment of sexual assault survivors, voted against the NDAA due to that omission.


Protect Our Defenders president Don Christensen, who is also a former Air Force chief prosecutor, stated that while the reforms are a "significant victory," much more work remains to be done.


"Because commanders retain convening authority, they will retain influence over the process through court member selection, approval or denial of immunity requests, and the hiring of expert witnesses and consultants," Christensen explained. "These commanders can also halt any prosecution by allowing the accused to resign rather than face a court martial. As long as this continues to be the case, the military justice system will never be truly independent."


A provision in the final compromise version that would have required women to register with the Selective Service System and made them eligible for future military drafts was also removed.


However, as part of the bill's compromise, the military justice reforms were weakened. The final version did not go as far as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, who argued for removing all serious crimes from the traditional military chain of command. Gillibrand, who has long been an outspoken advocate for improving the military's prosecution and treatment of sexual assault survivors, voted against the NDAA due to that omission.


Protect Our Defenders president Don Christensen, who is also a former Air Force chief prosecutor, stated that while the reforms are a "significant victory," much more work remains to be done.


"Because commanders retain convening authority, they will retain influence over the process through court member selection, approval or denial of immunity requests, and the hiring of expert witnesses and consultants," Christensen explained. "These commanders can also halt any prosecution by allowing the accused to resign rather than face a court martial. As long as this continues to be the case, the military justice system will never be truly independent."


A provision in the final compromise version that would have required women to register with the Selective Service System and made them eligible for future military drafts was also removed.

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